Friday, May 29, 2009

San Francisco Assessor Forms Committee To Take On Prop. 13

The Sacramento Bee reports here. One of their options is a "split roll," which would tax commercial and industrial property more heavily than residential property. I wrote a split roll initiative twenty years ago that just missed qualifying for the ballot. Good luck.

Chemerinsky On The Constitutional Convention

Erwin Chemerinsky in the Los Angeles Times (here) is skeptical about whether a convention will solve California's constitutional problems. The reason? The same politics that makes it so hard to get anything done under the present constitutional scheme. Here's the gist: "Even if there is a constitutional convention, and even if it does come up with a coherent and meaningful package of proposed changes, it's uncertain that that package would ever be adopted. There are countless controversial issues that could doom it. For example, if the revised constitution protects a right to marriage equality for gays and lesbians, a significant number of voters will oppose it on that basis alone. But if the new constitution does not protect a right to marriage equality, others will vote against it for that reason. The same impasse could arise over abortion rights, affirmative action or benefits for undocumented immigrants.

"Even if the constitutional convention were narrowly limited to issues related to the state's fiscal problems, this difficulty would not go away. For example, Proposition 13, which limits property taxes, has a greatly distorting effect on the state's tax structure, and I would certainly argue that it should be repealed or, at least, reformed. But simple politics tells us that a proposal to repeal Proposition 13 would be enormously controversial and could doom any constitutional reform. The same goes for repeal of the two-thirds requirement for passing budgets."

In other words, as I said in my own article on some related issues (here), having a convention doesn't make the politics of stalemate go away--it just transfers them to a different forum. And it wil take time, too. Better to immediately repeal the two-thirds rule for passing a budget (and for raising taxes, too).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Federal Court Challenge To Prop. 8

Ted Olson v. Ken Starr? This should be interesting. The news story is here.

ps. Here is a link to the complaint.

Mayer On The Constitutional Convention

Here is an article I wrote for the San Francisco Daily Journal regarding the legal and political issues raised by the calls for a constitutional convention. Among other things, I question the constitutionality of AB 4, the statute currently before the Legislature that would prescribe a means of selecting (not electing) the delegates to a convention. I also other a suggestion as to how the scope of such a convention could be limited.

Reactions to The Prop. 8 Case

Rick Hasen's is here. We'll post more as articles become available. Here is the article from the San Francisco Chronicle; here is the article from the Los Angeles Times; here is the article from the Sacramento Bee; and here is the article from the New York Times.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No Surprise

Prop. 8 upheld, existing marriages valid--or so says SF Gate.

ps. Five Justices joined the majority opinion by the Chief Justice. Justice Kennard wrote a separate concurrence, but joined in the majority opinion. Justice Werdegar concurred in the result, but wrote a separate concurrence explaining her view of the revision issue. Justice Moreno dissented, expressing the view that Prop. 8 was invalid. So the vote is 6-1 on the validity of Prop. 8 and 7-0 in favor of upholding existing marriages.

The opinions total 186 pages, so they will take a while to digest. They can be found here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prop. 8 Decision Tomorrow

The Prop. 8 decision will be available on the Supreme Court's website (here) at 10:00 am tomorrow. The consensus prediction of the media: upholding Prop. 8 while saving the marriages performed between the Court's decision in May in the Same-Sex Marriage Cases and election day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Grand Constitutional Bargain?

Should federal bailout money be conditioned on a constitutional convention? That's what Joe Mathews proposes in this New York Times op-ed piece.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Los Angeles Times Endorses The Constitutional Convention

The Los Angeles Times jumps on the bandwagon here.

We Have Met The Enemy--And It Is Us

Michael Finnegan, of the Los Angeles Times, offers this analysis. Here's the most interesting quote: "The public's contradictory impulses were laid bare by a recent Field Poll. It found that voters oppose cutbacks in 10 of 12 major categories of state spending, including the biggest, education and healthcare. Yet most voters were unwilling to have their own taxes increased, and they overwhelmingly favored keeping the two-thirds requirement for tax hikes."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Four Elections A Year?

Regularly scheduled elections, I mean. Joe Mathews has this op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times advocating more regular elections, instead of the crazy quilt pattern we have now.

No Change, No Surprise

All the budget initiatives went down to defeat last night, except for a silly measure that ties legislative pay to budget deficits. None of the others got more than 38%. The San Francisco Chronicle reports here; the Los Angeles Times reports here; and here is the Sacramento Bee's report.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Court of Appeal Interprets Assessment Requirement

Article XIII D. Section 4(a) provides that no special assessment "shall be imposed on any parcel which exceeds the reasonable cost of the proportional special benefit conferred on that parcel." Is this proportionality requirement violated when some parcels subject to an assessment pay less than their proportional share? A majority of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One, says "no," but a concurring Justice isn't so sure. The case is Dahms v. Downtown Pomona Property and can be found here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Political Scientist Looks At The May Ballot Measures

UCSD political scientist Thad Kousser looks at the May ballot measures in this op-ed from the Los Angeles Times and finds that they embody just the sort of bipartisan compromise that voters claims they want--at least in the abstract.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LWOP For Kidnapping Cruel And Unusual

In a welcome change from recent decisions that had adopted a restrictive reading of the California Constitution's "cruel or unusual punishment" clause, the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, has held in In re Nunez (here) than an LWOP sentence imposed on a kidnapper who was 14 at the time of the offense where the victim was not murdered amounts to cruel or unusual punishment under the California Constitution (as well as cruel and unusual punishment under the federal constitution's Eighth Amendment). The court was influenced by the fact that LWOP is not available for first degree murder, even with special circumstances, where the offender was 14 at the time of the crime, and by the fact that the sentence was apparently unique to California, the United States and the world.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Poll On The May Election

This poll, by the PPIC, shows all the budget-related measures losing, by varying amounts.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Will Same-Sex Marriage Go Back On The Ballot?

Will recent victories in other states speed up the political timetable for another ballot measure on same-sex marriage? The Los Angeles Times reports here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Revelopment Case And The Budget Mess

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee has this column about the budget crisis, specifically referencing the Superior Court's decision in the redevelopment case discussed here previously.

ps. Here is a a link to the trial court's decision. The state is expected to appeal.